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Banned back home, Tanji keeps fighting
[July 26, 2013]

Banned back home, Tanji keeps fighting

Jul 26, 2013 (The Honolulu Star-Advertiser - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Some 50 boxers from clubs across the state will compete at the upcoming Ringside World Championships in Kansas City, Mo.

It is more than a national competition for Koichi Tanji. It is the Golden Gloves and the Olympics rolled into one for the 27-year-old Japanese national who was banned from boxing in his homeland.

His crime? Tanji was born with a deformed right hand and right arm that is a few inches shorter than his left.

"It was a liability issue they said," according to his coach, Bruce Kawano. "We were unsure at first, too. But we took him to a doctor who watched him box and he cleared him.

"He can't go to the Olympics because he's banned in his country. He can't go to the Golden Gloves because he's not a U.S. citizen. But he still wants to compete. He's not that natural puncher, doesn't have that blinding speed, but he's a good boxer whose conditioning gets him through." Tanji, 10-10 at 123 pounds (bantamweight), is a certified personal trainer and conditioning coach. He is studying nutrition and diet at the University of Hawaii "because I want to be a better athlete and a better coach," he said.

But ultimately his goal is to have others see him as he sees himself. Normal.

"Maybe in Japan I am handicapped, it's what has to be designated for me to get a driver's license," said Tanji, who moved to Hawaii 10 years ago. "Here, I have my license. It wasn't an issue.

"It's all about how you think of yourself. What I have is nothing. It's not like I'm in a wheelchair. I don't have issues with mobility. I have all five fingers but my hand is not developed. I consider myself very lucky." Tanji said he is pleased when opponents don't realize his right hand is different.

"We put on the gloves and it's the same," he said.

The tournament, considered the world's largest amateur event with 1,500 boxers, runs through Aug. 3.

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